Bridging the Mental Health Gap
Dannette plans to make big changes for her people, especially with the way mental health is treated on reservations.
Growing up with both the Crow Tribe and the Chippewa Cree Tribe of Montana, Dannette saw no shortage of people in need of help. The reservation system goes hand in hand with a lack of resources for everything from food to jobs to health care. At 12 years old, her desire to make a difference landed her a Crow name BiaKaate-bass?e, meaning “Young Leader of the Young Ladies.” Now as an AIEF scholar, she plans to make big changes for her people, especially with the way mental health is treated on reservations.
In 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaska Natives between the ages of 10 and 34. Dannette has lost friends and family members to suicide, making her goal to open a mental health clinic on the reservation a very personal one.
“We need more doctors, social workers and mental health counselors. I want to help the communities where I grew up and was raised in, because those areas helped shape me to be the kind, caring and helpful person I am today. I want my kids to grow up in a place where their family is trying to make a better difference.”
Her dream is to open a mental health clinic and offer services for mental health, addiction and legal help.
Dannette was awarded an AIEF scholarship for the 2021-2022 school year, and she graduated this spring from the University of Montana-Missoula, completing her bachelor’s in social work with honors. She’s been a non-traditional student, completing her degree in her early thirties, which only speaks to her dedication.
Her dream is to open a mental health clinic and offer services for mental health, addiction and legal help. Her clinic would help people with transportation and act as a liaison for law enforcement. “We need to bridge the gap in these services and tell people ‘yes’ for once.”
Dannette also studied criminal justice and wants to improve the alert systems that indicate when Native women go missing. In 2019, only 5% of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) cases were covered by national or international media, according to the University of Wyoming.
With all these reform goals, Dannette is grateful for her AIEF scholarship. “There are more barriers put in front of Native Americans. People are living through stress on the reservation, and that can lead to acute and chronic illness. We must help each other, and education goes a long way. If it weren’t for [my AIEF] scholarship, I wouldn’t have a chance.”
With the help of our Program Partners and generous supporters, AIEF prioritizes education at every stage of life to give Native students what they need to succeed — so there can be more success stories like Dannette’s.